A patient in Canada says her clinician asked if she might consider assisted suicide, the Globe and Mail reported on August 9.
A 37-year-old Vancouver resident, Kathrin Mentler, sought treatment for depression and suicidal thoughts at Vancouver General Hospital, according to the Globe and Mail. A clinician told Mentler there were no available beds and access to treatment would be difficult because Canada’s socialist medical system is “broken.”
The clinician then asked if Mentler considered suicide under Canada’s Medical Assistance In Dying Act (MAID). Mentler said she was shocked the country’s medical system would suggest someone seeking help for suicidal ideation should kill themselves with medical assistance.
‘Killing People Is Not Caring’
Unavailability of beds or treatment options has been a growing problem in Canada and hundreds of Canadians died in 2018–2019 while waiting for surgery, according to a report published by SecondStreet.org.
Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, says replacing medical care with assisted death is dangerous for patients.
“In Canada, there was the story of a 51-year-old woman with multiple chemical sensitivities who needed a clean place to live,” Schadenberg said. “Instead, she was provided death. There was the story of the Canadian veteran who was living with PTSD who was told by the Veterans Affairs worker to consider euthanasia. Killing people is not caring and it changes our cultural attitudes towards the person in need of help.”
Assisted Suicide Solution
Canada began permitting medically assisted suicide under the MAID law in June 2016, allowing physicians to help terminally ill patients die.
Legal eligibility for MAID was expanded in 2021 to additional groups, including patients with chronic disease and disabilities.
The 2021 law also removed safeguards from the original bill, such as eliminating the 10-day waiting period and the requirement to offer palliative care, and reducing the required number of independent witnesses to one. The revised statute also allowed a new class of eligibles to be phased in, including those with severe refractory mental illnesses, in March 2024.
Medical practitioners are now legally obligated to inform patients who might fall under one of the permitted classes of the option. Clinicians who object to euthanasia must make a referral to non-objecting providers under guidelines formulated by the Canadian Association of MAID Assessors and Providers (CAMAP).
‘Suicide Booth’ Invented
Expanded medically assisted suicide has led to the invention of a “suicide booth,” a “coffin-like pod” that fills with nitrogen, leading to a quick death from oxygen and carbon dioxide deprivation, The U.S. Sun reported on August 27.
Expanded medical suicide could threaten vulnerable populations, says Matt Dean, a senior fellow for health care policy outreach for The Heartland Institute, which publishes Health Care News.
“MAID was sold as a means to legally end the suffering of a person dying from an insidious and painful disease,” said Dean. “However, critics pointed out that soon, not just the terminally ill would be seeking to end their life.”
Dean recalled the story last year of 54-year-old Amir Farsoud.
“Farsoud was approved for MAID by one doctor, even though he had no reasonably foreseeable death, and his main complaint was a loss of housing subsidy,” said Dean. “He publicly stated that he did not want to die but felt he could not afford to live. After his story attracted attention, a go-fund-me page raised $60,000 and Farsoud withdrew his request for MAID.”
Patients could be pressured to accept MAID, says Dean.
“Government-sanctioned death-inducing drugs prescribed for principally economic reasons creates a ‘duty to die’ expectation for those deemed to be a drain on the system,” said Dean. “What kind of country can tolerate the killing of a patient—in this case a non-terminal 54-year-old—to save $60,000?”
‘Mature Minors’ Eligible
Adolescents, already a high suicide-risk group, are particularly vulnerable, says Dean.
“The most basic role of the government is to protect its most vulnerable,” said Dean. “Unbelievably, Canada is not stopping at allowing the mentally ill to be essentially put to death. Children, or as the recommendations of the Report of the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying calls them, “mature minors” deserve barely any extra care when the state approves their death.”
While the parliamentary report perfunctorily acknowledges teenagers are vulnerable, it gives short shrift to the need for additional measures, says Dean.
“The report states that mature minors make up a potentially vulnerable group, calling for heightened societal protection, but concludes, ‘While acknowledging that MAID for mature minors should therefore involve special safeguards, a number of witnesses emphasized that these should not create onerous barriers to access,” said Dean.
‘Killing Is Cheaper Than Caring’
Schadenberg said that his concern is the acceptance of euthanasia as a panacea, driven by dollars and cents rather than societal costs.
“As for the issue of medical cost, it is clear that killing is cheaper than caring or providing treatment, but the expense related to killing is how it changes society,” said Schadenberg. “When someone is killed, rather than cared for, society comes to accept that some lives are not worth fighting for or caring for. This is a very sad statement because it results in a hardened society, one that lacks true empathy as death becomes a treatment, society eliminates people who may be difficult to care for.”
“I oppose killing people,” Schadenberg said. “There are many difficult human circumstances that require a highly intensive form of care. Some situations do not offer easy answers, but once killing becomes an acceptable solution to human suffering, then it cannot be controlled because there are many types of human suffering.”
Kevin Stone (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes from Arlington, Texas.